Newell-Fonda's sterling season ended in heartbreaking fashion Monday night as cold Mustang free throw shooting down the stretch and Mason City Newman's strength on the boards resulted in a 61-54 upset victory for the Knights.
ALGONA - Newell-Fonda's sterling season ended in heartbreaking fashion Monday night as cold Mustang free throw shooting down the stretch and Mason City Newman's strength on the boards resulted in a 61-54 upset victory for the Knights.
It was a barnburner struggle for a State Tournament berth, as the two teams traded the lead back and forth, paced by Newell-Fonda's Karina Overgaard and Newman's Holly Hinderman, who each poured in 16 points.
The Mustangs opened the game on a 7-2 run only to see Mason City Newman storm back to grab a 17-14 edge at the end of the first quarter. The Knights pushed the attack, and the Mustangs were down by as many nine in the second quarter before Newell-Fonda made a run of their own. The Mustangs tore off on a 12-3 run, including nine straight at one point as they came back to lead by one heading into the half, 30-29.
After a low-scoring third quarter, N-F took a four point lead into the final stanza. Newell-Fonda gave up the lead, then stormed back to take a 51-50 lead with under three minutes to play thanks to a Becky Seivert bucket. Newman answered with a burst to take a three-point lead with just over a minute left. The Mustangs'pressure defense saw steal attempts send the Knights to line to convert two of four, but N-F's Alisa Christensen answered right back with a jumper to make it 56-63.
The Mustangs' Rachel Culp broke up the ensuing inbounds play to gain possession, drawing Newman to foul. Karina Overgaard made the first free throw and NF fouled on an attempt to steal the rebound after the missed second shot. The Mustangs had a couple of good looks to close the gap, but Christensen's long three missed is mark, as did Ellen Gruntorad's follow. Newman claimed a rebound and scored to take a five-point lead with five seconds remaining, and added a pair of free throws in the closing seconds.
Senior forward Hinderman provided the power for the Knights, with seven of her points in the final quarter and a game-high eight rebounds. Lauren Hedrik chipped in 11.
Seivert helped to keep the Mustangs in it, with seven of her 12 points in the final quarter. Rachel Culp added nine points, Katelyn Laursen seven, and Ellen Gruntorad six. Culp, Overgaard and Gruntorad each claimed five rebounds.
Free throw shooting was critical, as Newell-Fonda made only two of 11 tries in the latter stages of the game. The Knights controlled the boards with a 34-28 rebounding advantage.
Unranked Newman opens State Tournament play March 2 against George-Little Rock.
Senior-laden Newell-Fonda had been ranked second in 1A by the Girls State Athletic Union all season, and finishes at 23-2. They had beaten Bishop Garrigan 77-48 to advance to the Regional Final, and had seen wins by as much as 64 points this season. Their only regular season loss was at the hands of neighboring Manson-NW Webster two days before Christmas.
The Mustang girls' basketball program will lose five to graduation in Culp, Gruntorad, Overgaard, Lauren Devereaux, and Kaite Kaufman.